Blending the rules: a blind tasting of top Australian reds
Session 10 of the Landmark Australia Tutorial


Andrew Caillard and Brian Croser (right), leading the session

This session was a Brian Croser special. Heíd chosen 20 fine Australian reds which we had to taste blind, and score on six different counts. This makes quite a matrix, and I wonít go into it in detail. The point was to assess how well these wines conveyed a sense of place, and whether they represented authentic terroir wines, or winemaker wines where much of the character came not from the vineyard, but from human intervention (and this includes picking too late).


Tutorial participants doing some papping

Iím going to focus on the wines, so here are my tasting notes, as written, double blind. Itís always interesting to see how famous wines fare when they are tasted blind like this. Of course, there are drawbacks with blind tasting: you can fail to understand a wine properly when you taste without knowing its identity. But it is important, from time to time, to challenge your preconceptions, and blind tasting does this. After all, who could rate Penfolds Grange at 89/100 when tasting it in view of the famous label? I may have got one or two of the wines wrong here, but Iím pleased that my favourites, such as Brokenwoodís Graveyard, Wendouree and Clonakilla performed well tasted blind.

THE WINES

2005 Plantagenet Shiraz, Mount Barker, Great Southern
(Tasted blind, note and score as written.) Sweet and rich with a spicy nose. Very sweet lush red and black fruits. The palate is sweet and intense with warm spicy fruit and a dry finish. Nice freshness to the blueberry and plum fruit on the palate, although this is quite a rich, sweet wine. 89/100

2006 Glaetzer Amon Ra Shiraz, Barossa Valley
(Tasted blind, note and score as written.) Sweet, intense liqueur-like black fruits nose is very smooth and ripe. Almost Port-like. The palate is intense and lush with soft, dark, concentrated fruit supported by rich spicy oak. Lush and ripe, and well made if you like this style. 89/100

2005 Brokenwood Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz, Hunter Valley
(Tasted blind, note and score as written.) Very fresh, well defined nose showing red fruit character and a touch of mint. Nice definition here and some fresh, more savoury notes. The palate is fresh and well defined with a supple character to the berryish red fruits. Nice definition and structure. 92/100

2004 Torbreck Run Rig Shiraz/Viognier, Barossa Valley
(Tasted blind, note and score as written.) Porty and highly aromatic. Super-ripe nose with sweet blackberry jam notes. The palate is super-concentrated, viscous and fat, with totally over-the-top sweet fruit. Itís an extreme style. Porty and soft with dead fruit. Apricot notes on the nose, too. Some will really like it, but itís not really my thing. 88/100

2002 Penfolds Grange Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon, Multi-region South Australia
(Tasted blind, note and score as written.) Rich, sweet, ripe autumnal nose with blackberries, smoke and spice notes. Intense and sweet with some wood showing. The palate is superconcentrated and lush with really dense, focused, spicy fruit. Sweet blackberry jam character, balanced by spicy, woody notes. Itís really big, but thereís a nice savoury edge here. 89/100

2005 Hardys Eileen Hardy Shiraz, McLaren Vale
(Tasted blind, note and score as written.) Smooth, creamy, blackcurrant fruit nose is ripe, lush and intense. The palate is super-ripe with dense blackcurrant and blackberry fruit as well as nice purity and definition. But thereís also an almost confected creamy sweet character. Big, bold and intense, finishing hot. 89/100

2004 Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz, Eden Valley
(Tasted blind, note and score as written.) Very fresh, assertive blackcurrant fruit nose is vibrant and lively with a subtly green, gravelly edge. Lovely freshness. The palate is sweet with nice pure blackcurrant fruit backed up by fresh, spicy structure. A really nice sweet Cabernet-style wine. 93/100

2004 Clarendon Hills Astralis Vineyard Shiraz (Syrah), McLaren Vale
(Tasted blind, note and score as written.) Sweet, pruney and slightly baked jammy dark fruits on the nose. The palate is super-sweet with bold blackcurrant and blackberry jam character. Just a bit forced and jammy. Too sweet? 86/100

2007 Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier, Canberra District
(Tasted blind, note and score as written.) Very sweet open aromatic nose showing lovely dark fruits with an apricot lift. Pretty aromatics. The palate shows lovely meaty, spicy dark fruits with a hint of pepperiness. Great definition here with lovely freshness. A very attractive Shiraz Viognier? 93/100

2005 Clayfield Wines Shiraz, Grampians
(Tasted blind, note and score as written.) Dense, sweet and spicy with awkwardly high acidity. A big, ripe, sweet fruity wine with a disconnect between the development of the fruit and the acidic finish. Quite intense and dark with good structure. Itís hard to judge: lovely fruit presence but perhaps pushed a bit too far. 90/100

2006 Two Hands Wines Bella's Garden Shiraz, Barossa Valley
(Tasted blind, note and score as written.) Very sweet, creamy blackcurrant fruit nose with some nice freshness and fruit purity. The palate is sweet and intense with dense vibrant red and black fruits but extremely high acidity. Massive concentration here, but the acid is hard to get past. 90/100

2005 Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz, Multi-region South Australia
(Tasted blind, note and score as written.) Very attractive fresh blackcurrant nose with a gravelly edge. The palate has lovely pure, fresh blackcurrant fruit with some nice grippy tannins and a lovely gravelly finish. Classic Coonawarra? Lovely definition. 93/100

2005 Seppelts St Peters Shiraz, Grampians
(Tasted blind, note and score as written.) Smooth, brooding dark fruits nose with black cherries, blackberries and plums and a liqueur-like edge. The palate is fresh and quite elegant with attractive sweet fruit and good acidity. Fresh, supple and balanced, finishing a little dry. 91/100

2005 Majella Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra
(Tasted blind, note and score as written.) Lovely sweet, intense pure blackcurrant fruit nose with some dark, minerally, gravelly notes. The palate is open and sweetly fruited with lovely density and balance. Nice gravelly blackfruits over some grippy tannins. Margaret River Cabernet? Beautiful. 94/100

2005 Cullen Wines Diana Madeline Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, Margaret River
(Tasted blind, note and score as written.) Lush, smooth and sweet with some very ripe fruit flavours and yet some firm grippy tannins. Tastes like a very ripe wine given lots of extraction. Firm, tannic wine. 87/100

2006 Balnaves of Coonawarra The Tally Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra
(Tasted blind, note and score as written.) Very ripe, sweet, dark, brooding intense black fruits nose. The palate is rich, bold and intense with lovely depth to the pure blackberry and blackcurrant fruit. Big but delicious with great definition and depth. A superb, sweetly fruited, powerful, structured wine. 94/100

2006 Woodlands Reserve de la Cave Cabernet Franc, Margaret River
(Tasted blind, note and score as written.) Very distinctive minty, green herby nose but with nice black and red fruit character. Unusual Ė a bit green but delicious. The palate is concentrated, supple, fresh and green with a herbal edge. A lovely, individual style of wine. 93/100

2004 Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River
(Tasted blind, note and score as written.) Sweet, pure, lush and dark with a brooding gravelly edge to the rich fruit on the nose. The palate is ripe with bold blackcurrant fruit. Very rich and smooth but still with some structure. A big wine. Perhaps a little forced? 90/100

2005 Wynns Coonawarra Estate John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra
(Tasted blind, note and score as written.) Lovely fresh, focused sweet dark fruits with intense blackberry and blackcurrant character. Rich and dense with lovely focus. Freshness and power combined. Big yet balanced. 93/100

2002 Wendouree Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec, Clare Valley
(Tasted blind, note and score as written.) Iodine/black fruits nose with a mineral edge to the blackberry and blackcurrant fruit. Sweet yet savoury. The palate has high acidity and firm tannins. Just lovely definition to the brooding black fruits. A complex, balanced wine. 94/100

Landmark Australia
Introduction 
Visiting the Australian Wine Research Institute
Session 1 - Regional Classics
Session 2 - Riesling 
Session 3 - Shiraz and Blends
Session 4 - Historical Perspective
Session 5 - Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Blends
Session 6 - Cabernet Sauvignon and Blends
Session 7 - An Alternative View
Session 8 - Chardonnay
Session 9 - Pinot Noir
Session 10 - Blending the rules
Session 11 - Sparkling
Session 12 - Fortified

Wines tasted 06/09  
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